Expressive, Instructional or Instrumental?

Some further notes from Tom Igoe, from a 2016 presentation about Physicality. He categorises physical computing projects as either Expressive, Instructional or Instrumental.

  • Expressive works are often the least directly interactive, because they’re usually about expressing an artistic point of view. They’re useful for learning about control of physical systems, and control of aesthetics, like any expressive work, though. Example project: Matthew Richard – Estrella Intersects the Plane
  • Instructional works aim to demonstrate or illustrate a phenomenon. I think this is one area where phys comp techniques shine. You learn many things best by experiencing it directly. Example project: Jill Haefele – Human:Nature
  • Instrumental projects can be purely utilitarian, or they can be purely whimsical, but they exist to enable some other behavior. You generally don’t look at the instrument, you look at, or listen to, what it produces. Example project: John Schimmel – RAMPS – a wheelchair DJ

“Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits”

Stumbled across this blog post from 2008 discussing  Physical Computing’s wheels that people reinvent again and again:

  1. theremin-like instruments
  2. drum gloves (tangible vs intangible)
  3. dance floors
  4. Scooby-Doo paintings: paintings that react to presence (easy to sense presence, hard to sense attention)
  5. body-as-cursor
  6. video mirrors (aka, hand wavers, because people always wave their hands)
  7. mechanical pixels
  8. hand-as-cursor (aka Minority Report)
  9. multi-touch surfaces (exercise:operate an iPhone while it’s in your pocket)
  10. tilty stands and tables
  11. tilty controllers
  12. things you yell at
  13. meditation helpers
  14. fields of grass (running your hand across it affects it)
  15. dolls and pets
  16. remote hugs
  17. LED fetishism

The two interesting things to mention (for me) from the conversation part of this post is that these are in fact design patterns, which have likely developed because physical computing is now a mature field, and has its own traditions. And should there be “a museum of interactive technology. Then students can start their studies with a baseline in work that has been done before. Like playing the scales or imitating the masters.” Despite this being posted in 2008, I am not sure that is yet the case.

This blog post is a more in-depth version of the same list by Tom Igoe.

I also need to check out the Fashionable Technology book mentioned in the comments.